Speaking in Church—Part 3

In what follows it is shown that 1Ti 2:11-14 is about the relationship between husband and wife. It is also shown that the passage is not an interdiction for a woman to teach or exercise authority, but an interdiction to carry out these activities in a manner inconsistent with the fact that a wife should submit to her husband.

(1Ti 2:11)Darby Let a woman learn in quietness in all subjection;
(1Ti 2:12) but I do not suffer a woman to teach nor to exercise authority over man, but to be in quietness;
(1Ti 2:13) for Adam was formed first, then Eve:
(1Ti 2:14) and Adam was not deceived; but the woman, having been deceived, was in transgression.

The word "quietness" in 1Ti 2:11 and 1Ti 2:12 is the translation of the Greek noun ησυχια. This word has also an adjective form ησυχιος and a verb form ησυχαζω. While a language may use a word with more than one meaning, it is of interest to minimize the number of meanings used when translating the words of the Bible. Indeed, believing that the entire Bible is from the Lord, and that the Lord has used his words in a consistent manner, so as to avoid confusion, it is natural to seek to minimize the number of meanings used when translating a word and its related forms. Among the possible distinct meanings of ησυχια, ησυχιος, and ησυχαζω that are found in lexicons, there is one unique meaning that fits all New Testament verses containing these Greek words. This meaning is "tranquil, of a peaceful disposition of mind". Examples illustrating this meaning most clearly include 1Ti 2:2, 1Th 4:11, 2Th 3:12, and Ac 21:14. Note that the meaning of these words does not require a person to be silent. Indeed, a silent attitude would not fit 1Ti 2:2, since Christians are not supposed to be silent, but to make disciples. For a more detailed analysis of the meaning of these words, the reader is referred to the article ησυχια. Note also that a different Greek word is used for the phrase "be silent" in "Let your women be silent in the churches; for it is not permitted to them to speak; but to be in subjection, as the Law also says" (1Co 14:34)MKJV. As indicated earlier, 1Co 14:34 refers to the fact that women should not speak in insubordination to their own husbands, but rather submit to them. While 1Co 14:34 speaks about being silent, 1Ti 2:11-12 speaks about having a tranquil, peaceful disposition of mind. The final part of 1Ti 2:12 indicates that the woman should have this attitude in general, not just in the church. Since 1Co 14:34 refers to insubordinate talk, and a tranquil attitude does not imply silence, a woman may speak in church when appropriate.

We read that a woman should learn "in all subjection". As mentioned earlier in this article, the only area of submission that is specific to women (that is, not expected for both men and women) is that women should submit to their own husbands. Now, 1Co 14:34 also mentions that women should "be in subjection, as the law also says"Darby. Passages from the law indicating that women should submit to their own husbands are referenced in 1Co 11:8-9 and 1Ti 2:13-14. "For Adam was first formed, then Eve" (1Ti 2:13). "For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man" (1Co 11:8-9). As mentioned in Ge 2:18, the woman was created in order to help the man: "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him". That the man was better equipped to lead can be seen also from the fact that "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (1Ti 2:14).

When indicating that wives should submit to their own husbands, the New Testament uses several Old Testament references. Notable in this context is the absence of references to Ge 3:16. Indeed, Ge 3:16 is part of a passage describing consequences of sin, not part of a passage on how God intended the relationship between man and woman. Speaking to Eve and to all her female descendants about the consequences of sin, the Lord said that "thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Ge 3:16). The Hebrew words for "desire" and "rule over" appear again in Ge 4:7. In Ge 4:7, Cain was told that " ... sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him". By comparing Ge 3:16 to Ge 4:7, we see that Ge 3:16 predicted that there would be women trying to control their husbands as eagerly as sin "desires" to control man, and that there would be men dominating women according to the manner in which Cain was supposed to dominate sin. Taking in account the context of Ge 3:16, these are consequences of sin, not the way God intended the relationship between man and woman.

1Ti 2:12 adds that "I do not suffer a woman to teach nor to exercise authority over man". As indicated in the lexicons, the Greek verb translated "to exercise authority" could also be translated "to control, to domineer, to govern, to lord it over, to have full power over, ... ". As for the verb "to teach", an interesting remark is that in the original language this verb has no object. This could be seen best if the verse is translated respecting the word order of the Greek text: "to a woman, however, to teach I do not permit, neither to exercise authority over man". Thus, this verse does not say explicitly whom or what a woman may not teach. In Greek, the tense of the verbs "to teach" and "to exercise authority" is present. This tense indicates that the verse does not say that a woman may not teach at all or that she may not exercise authority at all. The aorist tense would be expected for a complete interdiction. This observation agrees with various passages indicating that a woman may teach (Pr 1:8, Tit 2:3-5, Heb 5:12). Since no other passages say what a woman may not teach, the fact that the verb "to teach" has no object in 1Ti 2:12 can be understood in the sense that what a woman may not teach depends from one case to another. Thus, 1Ti 2:12 can be interpreted as saying that a woman may not teach or exercise authority freely, without restraint. Indeed, there are contexts in which such attitudes are inappropriate. Now, some examples from the Bible in which a verb has no object are as follows. In Ro 14:3 we read about those who eat and those who do not eat. In view of Ro 14:2, those who did not eat were people who abstained from certain foods, and those who ate were people who did not abstain from those foods. Another example is 1Co 14:34, which was discussed earlier in this article. Speaking of women, the verse mentions that "it is not permitted unto them to speak". As indicated before, this does not forbid women to speak at all, but only restricts what they may speak about in church.

One observation that can be made is that 1Ti 2:12 does not say at all that a woman should submit not only to her husband but also to all men. The fact that a woman may not exercise authority over a man does not imply that she has to submit to that man. While 1Ti 2:11 states that women should be "in all subjection", it does not say "in all subjection to men". Considering the other passages that say to whom believers should submit, and since the women are addressed in 1Ti 2:11, the phrase "in all subjection" emphasizes that women should submit to their own husbands. As indicated earlier in this article, the only area of submission found in the Bible that applies only to women is that they should submit to their own husbands. .

A close examination of the passage indicates that it is in the context of the relationship between a wife and her husband. If 1Ti 2:12 is applied to the more general context of the interaction between men and women, it would instruct women to use proper restraint when teaching or exercising authority. However, the same is true for men, they also should exercise proper restraint. Since the Bible does not ask women to submit to men (excepting the requirement that a wife should submit to her husband), we would expect typical instructions to be the same for both men and women. However, in the context of a husband and of a wife, since the husband is the leader and the wife should submit, we would expect some different expectations for the man and for the woman. The fact that 1Ti 2:12 is addressed only to women indicates that the verse is not focused on the interaction between men and women but on the relationship between husband and wife. The verse speaks about attitudes that would not fit a wife submitting to her husband.

The context of 1Ti 2:12 is as follows. In 1Ti 2:11 we do not read "Let all of you be in subjection" but rather "Let a woman learn ... in all subjection". Thus, the emphasis is on the area of submission specific to women, which is submission to their own husbands. Furthermore, 1Ti 2:13-14 provides the example of Adam and Eve, the first married couple. Thus, we can see that the context of 1Ti 2:12 is the relationship between a woman and her husband. The New Testament uses the same Greek word (γυνη) for both "woman" and "wife", and the same word (ανηρ) for both "man" and "husband". Depending on the interpretation assumed by a Bible translation, the word γυνη is translated either "woman" or "wife", and the word ανηρ either "man" or "husband". Therefore, the word "wife" could be used instead of "woman" in 1Ti 2:11-12, and the word "husband" instead of "man" in 1Ti 2:12. Applying 1Ti 2:12 to the context of a husband and wife, the verb "to teach" is about teaching the husband, and the phrase "to exercise authority over man" is about exercising authority over the husband. The present tense of the Greek verbs translated "to teach" and "to exercise authority" implies that the instructions of 1Ti 2:12 are not to be understood as total interdictions. However, since the husband is the leader, the wife could teach him or exercise authority only if the husband assents to it. For example, a situation in which a wife might exercise authority could be when the husband tries to help her in an area that she knows best. The fact that the verb "to teach" has no object implies that what a wife may not teach depends from one case to another. Since this interdiction is given only to the wife and not also to the husband, we can understand that it has to do with the fact that the wife should submit to the husband. We infer that a wife may not teach the husband when by doing this she would not be in submission.

As indicated above, 1Ti 2:12 applies primarily to the relationship between husband and wife. The passage does not imply that a woman must submit to other men or that she may not teach men. On the contrary, we can find evidence in other passages that a woman may teach and exercise authority. For example, in 1Ti 3:.8-13, note that a literal translation of 1Ti 3:11 is "Likewise, the women must be reverent, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things". This verse is found in the context of deacons: "Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience" (1Ti 3:8-9). Note that the Greek text does not have the pronoun "their" in 1Ti 3:11. If we had "their women" in 1Ti 3:11, then "their women" could have been understood as "their wives". However, as it stands, the text appears to give instructions for women serving as deacons of the church. Note that the Greek word for "deacon" means also "servant". Depending on the assumed interpretation, a translation may use either the word "deacon" or "servant". Thus, in Ro 16:1, if the meaning "deacon" is used instead of "servant", we would read that Phoebe, a woman, was a deacon of the church of Cenchrea. Regardless whether a servant of the church serves a local church (and thus is a deacon) or whether he serves people from more than one local church, as a church servant he has some authority. Indeed, based on 1Co 16:16 we can understand that we should submit to those who labor for the Lord. Accounting for the details of the original language, we can conclude that 1Ti 3:11 and Ro 16:1 imply that a woman can serve the church, and thus exercise the authority of one laboring for the church. Another example may be found in the Old Testament. Deborah was a prophetess and she judged Israel (Jdg 4:4). Thus, she had the authority of a judge. In Jdg 4:8-9 and Jdg 4:14 we read that she went with Barak and the army of Israel. In this context, as a prophetess, she must have exercised authority over the men of Israel (see for instance Jdg 4:14).

In support of the fact that a woman may teach, we could note several examples of women who were prophetesses (Ex 15:20, Jdg 4:4, 2Ki 22:14, Is 8:3, Lk 2:36, Ac 21:9). These examples are significant because God has used prophets in order to teach the people and lead them to himself. Moreover, there are also passages of the Word of God that came from women, such as Jdg 5, Pr 31, 1Sa 2:1-10, and Lk 1:41-55. Since all Scripture is profitable for teaching (2Ti 3:16), we can see how God has used things spoken by women to teach both men and women. In Ac 18:24, 26 we read "And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. ... And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly". Note that both Aquila and Priscilla explained to Apollos the way of God. Indeed, the Greek form translated "expounded" has the plural number. If only Aquila had taught Apollos, a singular number would have been used. In accordance with the remarks above, what Priscilla did was not in conflict with 1Ti 2:12.

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